The Trickle-Up Theory

Long after the advent of the personal Web page, local zines and journals keep striving to change the world of writing with print runs of 200 copies

While Conduit includes submissions from every species in the poet's genus--from the much-lauded to the as-yet-unknown to the no-chance-of-ever-being-published-so-why-bother--much of the journal's esprit comes from Waltz himself, who pens an introductory essay in each issue. The most recent, for instance, which is titled "Lady Cop: The Beat of Desire," tracks the evolution of the distaff television dick from Angie Dickinson to Helen Mirren. Elsewhere, Waltz has expounded upon "the untapped potential of static cling" as it pertains to late-stage capitalism's commodification of time, and the transformative power of substance-use in the context of TV's Underdog. If it all sounds goofily academic, that, too, is part of Conduit's charm. "For me," says Waltz, "the poetry magazine should be like good jazz; you should respond to it emotionally and intellectually. And it should be fun."

The dearth of fun in poetry journals, he continues, was what prompted him to start his own magazine while attending graduate school in Massachusetts in the mid-1990s. "There was this absence of journals I was attracted to. Everything was just so staid and dull. Plus, I knew so many writers who weren't getting published." (Waltz was among them, and, indeed, is still looking for a home for his manuscript.)

Signal to Voys: Audio journal editors and German radio fans Erik Belgum and Brian West
Teddy Maki
Signal to Voys: Audio journal editors and German radio fans Erik Belgum and Brian West

After Waltz and Astor moved to the Twin Cities--lured from the East Coast by the prospect of cheaper living and an active poetry and music scene--they continued to churn out the mag, relying on a scant list of subscribers to cover costs (Conduit advertises itself as "grant free since 1993," which Waltz views as a badge of artistic honor). These days, Conduit is flourishing--always a relative term for a poetry journal, of course. Recent contributors include luminaries like Franz Wright and James Tate, and, according to Waltz, a national distribution deal is in the works. But, he says, a bit of mainstream renown won't taint the magazine's ironic wit or antiestablishment flavor. "When we quit changing, I'm going to quit doing it. I'm not going to rest on any laurels--I mean if there were any laurels to rest on." (Peter Ritter)

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